UPDATE: Turns out that 4oD actually only offers the last fortnight’s shows on catch up through the PS3, but all teh archive goodies will be available by the start of 2011.
We heard on Monday that ITV Player and 4oD would be coming to the Sony PS3 this week, and would you look at what just turned up in our XMB. We took both services for a spin: find out how they stack up against all the console’s other video streaming services here in our review: first look.
PS3 owners have had BBC iPlayer on tap for years through their consoles, but it’s only just this week that rival broadcasters have rolled out their own on demand service, ITV Player and 4oD on it – or any set top box that doesn’t simply play desktop Flash video (Like the Boxee Box). It’s commendable that Sony has been the one to pull this off, while Nintendo sits on it thumbs and Microsoft insists on charging for everything, but we do find it baffling that it took ITV and Channel 4 so long to come round to this.
The first thing you should know is that both of these services, like iPlayer, aren’t native apps. They’re shortcuts to customised web pages in the browser (You can see for yourself what 4oD looks like here http://ps3.channel4.com/), and before you ask, no, they sadly don’t work in the Wii’s browser, we checked. The lack of a native app isn’t necessarily something to bemoan: Mubi‘s PS3 app was rather slow, but these are as quick as your internet connection will allow.
Content appears to be exactly the same as on both desktop equivalents (Although with ITV, you’re asked for your postcode to serve up regional news if that’s what you’re into), but getting to them requires different approaches. With a lack of standards, BBC iPlayer, 4oD and ITV Player all have slightly different UIs, and because you’re using a gamepad rather than a mouse, it’s much more noticeable. ITV’s is definitely more attractive, and makes more sense than 4oD’s curious Alphabet grid, in which to search by letter you must click a row of letters, then the individual letter.
As for the streaming itself, it’s just as you’d expect: muddy and standard definition. This isn’t a fault of the PS3 to be fair, since neither offers HD options on the desktop anyway, but if we had to guess, we’d say image quality was slightly inferior than the BBC iPlayer streams we tested. As you’d expect, ads pop up in just the same way they do on ITV Player and 4oD in your browser.
Unfortunately, this website approach still has some bugs, especially on the 4oD site. As with BBC iPlayer, you can’t quite use the PS3 Blu-ray remote all the way through the process: particularly on the shows which require ticking adult consent (Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights), you’ll need a gamepad to drag the cursor across precisely to play. We also bizarrely “ran out of memory” while navigating 4oD’s site, an error message we’ve never seen on our PS3 before.
Is this what we’d hope for from our consoles and set top boxes in 2010? Not really: they’re perfectly capable of streaming in HD on demand if content providers could be bothered to figure it out. And Virgin Media’s on demand service is still superior, both for image quality and navigation.
But hey, that’s another subscription, we’ve just moved, and this latest addition has convinced us that suddenly, that Freeview HD recorder isn’t quite so necessary after all. We doubt we’re alone in this, and in the run up to Christmas, it’s certainly a strong reason to justify the higher price of the PS3 over the Xbox 360.
Now, if only there was something better to watch on ITV than Corrie.